What can be done to tackle misogyny in the wake of recent events?

Boys are being taught about misogyny and toxic masculinity in schools across the UK. (Getty Images)
Boys are being taught about misogyny and toxic masculinity in schools across the UK. (Getty Images)

From accusations of rape and assault, to an on-air sexist rant and a poll revealing that sexual harassment is contributing to girls’ declining happiness, it has been quite the month for misogyny.

Earlier this week Laurence Fox and Dan Wootton were suspended by GB News after the former asked "Who’d want to shag that?" about a female journalist in a now-viral tirade.

Fox made the remarks about political correspondent Ava Evans during an episode of Dan Wootton Tonight on Tuesday after Evans had appeared on Monday’s BBC Politics Live.

Meanwhile presenter Russell Brand has been accused of sexual assault and emotional abuse in the wake of a joint investigation by The Times, Sunday Times and Channel 4’s Dispatches.

While there are currently no criminal charges against Brand, police are probing allegations made in light of the media investigation. He denies any accusations.

Most recently, and tragically, a 15-year-old girl died from a stabbing, with the fatal wound purportedly being inflicted by a 17-year-old boy.

Read more: Leigh Francis responds to Russell Brand sexual assault allegations: ‘It’s just sad’ (Independent, 3-min read)

Should boys be taught about toxic masculinity? (Getty Images)
Should boys be taught about toxic masculinity? (Getty Images)

Misogyny: a growing problem?

While these events have occurred in the last few weeks, it is also impossible to ignore the ongoing influence of Andrew Tate who has built a huge online following in recent years, but is also a self-proclaimed misogynist.

The Influencer is currently in custody in Romania, where he is facing charges of human trafficking and rape, allegations he denies.

The former kickboxer and Big Brother contestant has repeatedly promoted extreme misogynist views to millions of followers on social media, and despite being banned from various platforms maintains a huge following online.

So what can we do to address the issue?

Some schools across the UK are running workshops for boys in a bid to tackle misogyny and counter the rise of "toxic influencers", like Tate.

Earlier this year, St Dunstan's College made headlines for their Additional Stuart Curriculum, which included lessons on toxic masculinity.

The Catford school created their own lesson plans to ensure “misogynistic” views do not go unchallenged with pupils taught how harmful content can be shared and the damage that it can cause.

"We also teach students about the harm of gender stereotypes, looking at the damage that toxic gender stereotypes can have on both individuals and society," explains Jonathan Holmes, deputy head academic at the independent school.

"Within this, we teach that some men may have views and behaviours that demonstrate toxic masculinity within the context of looking at toxic gender stereotypes more widely.

"We ensure that students can identify what this looks like and can understand how it is different from healthy behaviours, alongside making it clear that it doesn't apply to all men."

The additional lessons also explore the subject of feminism and its history, gender equality and sexual harassment, as well as ensuring that all students have a strong understanding of consent.

Read more: Teenager charged with murder of 15-year-old Elianne Andam appears in court (PA Media, 1-min read)

Misogynistic views are being spread via social media. (Getty Images)
Misogynistic views are being spread via social media. (Getty Images)

Other schools are teaming up with outside groups to educate boys on the subject.

Mike Nicholson, a former English teacher, runs Progressive Masculinity, which organises workshops for children as young as nine, during a six-hour programme over two days.

The programme is designed to "promote a more progressive and open-minded understanding of what it means to be 'a man' at a time when our boys and young men are feeling more isolated and confused than ever", the website reveals.

The workshop involves asking pupils what they believe are the "unwritten rules" of being a man, such as driving a fast car or having a certain kind of job.

"We then reflect on these rules and ask: ‘Do we think this is the way to a happy life?’ I’m drawing things out and opening space for discussion," he told The Times.

Watch: Police Scotland officers 'fear being labelled a grass if they call out misogyny and sexism'

What is toxic masculinity?

According to Gemma Campbell, counsellor and clinical content specialist at Kooth, toxic masculinity refers to the pressures for boys and men to behave in certain unhealthy ways.

"It includes ideas that men and boys need to 'man up', act tough, treat women and girls a certain way, and avoid certain emotions such as sadness, in favour of 'manlier' emotions like anger.

"All of this can lead to feelings of shame, isolation, anxiety, and even a sense of not being good enough. It might also lead some boys and men to keep their feelings hidden, rather than reaching out for support."

So why is there such a need to educate boys about the subject right now?

“The impact of toxic masculinity is far-reaching," explains Claire Cook founder and proprietor of independent school, Employability Solutions.

"If not tackled explicitly it can lead to more violence against women, as men may feel entitled or validated in their abusive behaviour.

"Unhealthy masculinity is incredibly detrimental to our young men; lack of positive male role models and unspoken acceptance of toxic behaviour means many of these behaviours have gone unnoticed, unchallenged and even accepted as societal norms.

“It means that we, as educators, have a duty of care to teach the importance of healthy relationships and raise explicit awareness on the matter."

Read more: Women twice as likely as men to be asked to make tea at work (Yahoo Life UK, 4-min read)

Holmes says that while gender stereotypes and toxic gender identities and behaviour has been taught in the school for many years, discussing case studies, such as Andrew Tate, brings the subject to life.

"Andrew Tate is well known by students, regardless of whether they agree or disagree with his views," he explains. "Social media algorithms promote his content in order to achieve maximum advertisement income, even if young people do not engage with it, scroll past, or click they do not like it.

"As such, we believe that we have most impact in terms of addressing toxic masculinity by using real-life examples rather than brushing the matter under the carpet."

Boys are being taught about the influencer Andrew Tate in school. (Getty Images)
Boys are being taught about the influencer Andrew Tate in school. (Getty Images)

So is educating boys about the subject the way forward?

"In an effort to tackle what some teachers have identified as a substantial increase in intimidation, sexism, and abuse in their schools, senior leaders and headteachers took the decision to confront the ‘Tate problem’ head on," explains Dr Robert Lawson, associate professor in socioinguistics at Birmingham City University, an expert on the culture/language behind figures like Andrew Tate.

"This resulted in a number of schools in the UK developing workshops, CPD courses, assemblies, and class-based interventions designed to help young men resist the siren call of Tate’s message and the broader scope of sexism, misogyny, and ‘toxic masculinity’."

Dr Lawson cites a recent Tes article, in which assistant headteacher Mark Roberts shared his own strategies in this area, including trying to understand why boys might be susceptible to Tate’s message and why his image of masculinity based on conspicuous consumption might be so alluring.

"Roberts goes on to argue that opening up these kinds of conversations with young men 'will increase the likelihood of them listening to [teachers and school leaders] when we start to deconstruct their views'.

"All of this points to the importance of education in countering sexism, misogyny and male supremacism."

However, Andrew Hampton, the author of Working with Boys, a book about how to create mutual respect in schools, told it was important that schools did not channel a "boy-bashing agenda", leaving them feeling "alienated, denigrated and angry at lessons which seem to imply that inside every boy is a potential abuser."

Dr Lawson believes there is also a need to promote positive male role models in schools and elsewhere, with public figures like Marcus Rashford as a good example of a more progressive and healthier masculinity.

"Challenging the influence of figures like Tate (and the broader scope of online misogyny) is an ongoing effort and one that will require a multifaceted approach to resolve," he continues. "Education is arguably the most important part of this effort, but communities, families, caregivers, and parents all have a role to play in helping young men become the best version of themselves."